It is 15 years since Association for India's Development created channels by which people in the USA and in thecities of India could connect with the rural masses of India. Windows of opportunity to do something meaningfulopened when it became possible to identify villages without schools, wells and electricity, collect donations fromwell-meaning individuals and find collaborators in India with whose partnership projects in education, ruraldevelopment, health etc could be taken up. By building bridges with progressive community, women's groupsand motivated citizens we have opened doors to activists and social workers who in the midst of theirphenomenal work found time to visit and inspire us. Despite hectic work and school schedules the commitmentof our volunteers grew and we went to the cause as much as the cause came to us. Through AID-India,enriched by several volunteers quitting their jobs and working full-time for the cause, and by joining severalgrassroots movements, we have gotten the first-hand experience of ourselves working with the underprivilegedor overexploited of India.While we have opened windows and doors to the masses of India, we have also been conscious that there arewalls around us - walls of security from within which exploiters exploit, walls of comfort that separate the elitefrom embracing the masses. Sometimes even as we open the windows we are frustrated knowing that we aredoing this from the comfort of our living rooms and lifestyles that are unsustainable. And yet in the past fewyears we have seen some of the walls collapse. Indeed along with the others, AID volunteers have pounded atsome of the walls as they collapsed.The wall of silence between the bureaucracy and the common citizen of India collapsed with efforts initiated byactivists like Aruna Roy and the villagers of Rajasthan who demanded to see their muster rolls or paymentregisters, resulting in the dawn of the Right to Information Act. This has given common citizens access to filesthat only the bureaucracy had, thereby removing the wall between them, in whose shadow the officials takebribes, making corruption rampant.If today we are at this happening stage it is because of the path of Sangharsh, Nirman and Seva that we learntfrom movements such as the Narmada Bachao Andolan. It showed us that just doing something has littlemeaning if injustice is left unchallenged. We have seen courage in non-violent activists of India and we need togather our courage, for it is easy to tell people that we are helping the poor but it is much harder to point tooppressive forces that are causing poverty. We do not want to be raising money or volunteers by arousing pity,by showing a poor villager living in darkness with no lights in her house. We want to show that a hard-workinglaborer of India who earns Rs 20-40/day cannot pay the Rs.1500 bribe that is taken by electricity official whogives the connection, but can pay the Rs 40 per month electricity bill for maintaining a light and a fan. If thebribes in the electricity department and corruption in our heart are fought, India will move from darkness tolight.In the space of organizations AID has an important role as it is one of the few that realizes the importance of addressing the causes rather than the symptoms of poverty. AID that started out among highly educatedpeople has a natural base that attracts the elite of India that are genuinely concerned. A meaningfulpartnership between the elite and the masses has to be established and AID has made and will continue tomake a big contribution in this direction by linking with grass-roots movements, NGOs and through directinvolvement via AID-India. Now more than ever we need to dedicate ourselves, for the successful collaborationsand work of the past, have only put greater responsibility and expectation on AID, its volunteers, donors andwell-wishers, and with each day that passes a greater load of burden is falling on the shoulders of the poor of India.Some volunteers and leaders of AID have focused on local activities of the chapters and it is not an easy taskto keep attending meetings, raising funds, visiting and approving projects, hosting speakers, and keeping theoptimism alive year after year while the chapter goes through the ups and downs as people move in and out of the area. Some volunteers and leaders have coordinated between chapters, between project partners, movingfrom one issue to the next, so that AID solidarity and support is there for each and every just cause that comesto our notice. Always putting a nice word and an appreciative nod, several well-wishers and donors have seenAID evolve in the past 15 years, and have trusted and stood by us as they see us going deeper even as ourwork spreads wider. Several young people have quit their regular jobs and joined us as Saathis,Jeevansaathis, and project and program workers in full service. All your energy and commitment is needed foryears to come, looking ahead after 15 years of AID, together we hope more and more people join AID, do moreand more things, for more and more causes, with more and more courage and more and more focus.
Page 2Article on 15 years of AID by Ravi Kuchimanchi, founder